Home-Cooking—Dickinson County Style
“Capturing the Present and Remembering the Past”©
by Meta Newell West, August 2013
By META NEWELL WEST
“Keeping it simple has been my style for many years,” Joan Dawson explains. From balancing a career while raising two sons to the retirement years, this is a philosophy for living that has worked well for her.
When the Dawsons lived in the country, and Joan was a busy mother and teacher, most of their entertaining was done in the summer around an outdoor pool. The focus was on casual outdoor cooking.
These days she has more time to entertain. “Glen and I love to get together with friends with just hearty hors d'oeuvres and wine. I have a large collection of easy-to-make appetizer and hors d'oeuvre recipes for these occasions,” she said.
Joan believes that entertaining should be fun . . . for both the hosts and the guests and there is one recipe that she returns to time and time again —a Mexican Stack, essentially a meal-in-one. According to Joan, these are real party pleasers and allow the guests to stack up their own choice of flavors as they mingle and have a good time.
When entertaining her extended family, Joan might prepare a slow baked brisket or her Cola Pot Roast. To keep it simple she says, “I fix the meat and potatoes and everyone else brings the remainder of the meal.”
“When we built our retirement house 12 years ago, I planned my open kitchen for easy access to everything I need,” she said. A pantry in the corner is full of the items she uses most often, from canned foods, to dry soups, dips, and boxed mixes. She chas two freezers for storing shredded cheeses, pre-cooked meats, and any of Glen's garden produce that can be frozen.
Although her kitchen is designed so that she can interact with guests while she prepares food, she noted, “I try to prepare as much as possible ahead of a meal when entertaining. And, she added, “I use recipes that I can prepare and have ready to pop into the oven or out of the refrigerator without spending too much time away from our guests.”
Speaking of recipes, some of her best come from church and community cookbooks. Joan figures that if a cook went to the trouble to submit a recipe, it must be someone’s favorite. She even has the first cookbook she ever received — “Searchlight Recipe Book,” 1952 edition. “It was given to me by the Kansas governor when on a 4-H field trip to the state capitol. Another treasure is her copy of “The Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book,” received as a shower gift 57 years ago.
“I also love recipes given to me by friends and family. I usually put the person’s name in the recipe title so I can remember who shared their recipe.” There’s one titled Geffrey’s Bunkhouse Bean Bake. Geff, one of the Dawson’s sons, lives in the Flint Hills, near Alma, Kan. He is a ranch manager, a cowboy poet, and he likes to prepare hearty, ranch-hand style dishes. He and wife, Dawn, often smoke meats and do “Lodge Pot” meals – outdoor cooking in cast iron cookware.
She also obtains ideas from son Justin who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. where he owns a painting and decorating business. His specialty is outdoor barbeque cooking and Mexican food. In addition, Joan points out, “He has a small garden where he grows herbs and many kinds of hot peppers.”
Joan’s family moved to a farm northwest of Talmage when she was five. She learned to cook growing up at home. “My mother worked outside a lot helping my dad on the farm, so being the oldest child I started helping with meals for the five of us when I was about nine or 10 years old,” she remembers. Additional skills and organization tips were learned from 4-H. “My 4-H cooking leader was Dorothy Habaker. She was so patient with us,” she added.
Organization of both space and time is crucial to Joan’s enjoyment of her time in the kitchen and was a key to her success as a teacher. She taught fourth grade at Chapman Elementary for 27 years. “The first 10 years I taught all subjects and for the remaining years I taught science, math, and health. After retirement in 1998, I substituted two or three days a month at Solomon Elementary for more than 10 years,” she mentioned.
Every time Joan pulls out her recipe for Mini Cherry Cheesecake, it brings back memories of those years of teaching. The staff drew names for birthdays and would provide treats for one another’s birthday. “I can't remember which Chapman teacher shared this recipe, that is at least 25 years old, but it has become one of our family favorites.” She shares that simple recipe and others in the space that follows.
Sweet Onion Dip
The Dawson’s first tasted this baked dip at Dale and Eleanor Correll's ranch in the Flint Hills. Since then it has become one of their favorite appetizers.
2 cups coarsely chopped sweet onions
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1½ cups mayonnaise (make sure it’s mayonnaise and not salad dressing)
Combine all ingredients except paprika and mix well. Place in a small baking dish and sprinkle with paprika.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to set for about 10 minutes. Serve hot with crackers or tortilla chips.
Mexican Stack . . . for about 20 to 25 people
Joan prepares all of the components for this dish in advance and then has them available for guests to assemble their own stacks. This is her suggestion for filling plates—start with a base of corn chips, add a spoonful of rice, some meat and bean filling, and then let guests add the remaining ingredients, in the order listed.
Meat & Bean Filling:
Combine all ingredients and simmer at low temperature for about 1 hour or more. 4 lbs. ground beef, browned with 2 large onions, chopped, or use 2 Tbsp. dried onion
mixed with 2 Tbsp. water
1 (29 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (29 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (29 oz.) can tomato puree
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 large (27 oz.) can ranch style beans or 1 large ( 27 oz.) can bean & bacon soup
Basic Stack Additions:
Corn chips, crushed — about 2 large or 1 (16 oz.) family size bag for 20 people
Cooked rice — 4 cups of cooked Minute Rice® or 1 large (10 oz.) box, cooked according to package directions)
Other Additions: (add in the order listed)
3 (8 oz.) bags of shredded iceberg lettuce, about 3 heads
1 lb. shredded Cheddar cheese
7 diced tomatoes
2 large (12 oz.) cans sliced ripe olives
10 oz. chopped pecans
7 oz. angel flake coconut
1 large (46 oz.) jar salsa
1 (16 oz.) carton sour cream
1 (8 oz.) carton guacamole, optional
Geffrey’s Bunkhouse Bean Bake
The Dawson’s son, Geffrey, brought this dish to a family gathering and it’s become a family favorite that is served with cornbread. Geffrey’s daughter, Carmen Matzke, gave the recipe to him.
Brown: 1 lb. ground beef with 1 chopped onion and ½ lb. bacon
1 (14 - 15.5 oz.) can baked beans (such as Bush’s®)
1 (14 - 15.5 oz.) can kidney beans
1 (14 - 15.5 oz.) can butter beans
1 (14 - 15.5 oz.) can pork & beans
1 (14 - 15.5 oz.) can ranch style beans
½ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
Stir together all ingredients to mix. Bake at 350° for 1 hour; cover with foil for first 30 minutes, then uncover for last 30 minutes.
Cola Pot Roast
Prepared in the slow cooker version, this tender roast creates its own flavorful sauce that is soft drink based.
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 (3½ to 4½ lbs.) boneless beef bottom round or chuck roast
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, cut into half-moons
1 (12 oz.) can cola
1 (12 oz.) bottle chili sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
Sprinkle salt, pepper, and garlic powder evenly over entire roast then place roast in a 6-quart slow cooker. Place carrots and onion around roast.
In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients; mix well then pour over roast.
Cover and cook on low setting for 7 to 8 hours, or until fork-tender. Slice and serve topped with sauce and vegetables.
Shar’s Crockpot Taco Bean Soup Serves 12
This recipe comes from former Abilene resident Sharlotte Hollomon. The Dawsons and the Hollomons can trace their friendship back to the 1960s when they were all showing horses. They stayed in touch over the years and while in Texas, Shar served this delicious, thick soup to Joan and Glen.
Note: Can sizes are approximate and may vary slightly
1½ lbs. ground beef
2 cups water
1 chopped onion
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz.) can Rotel® tomatoes
2 (14.75 oz.) cans corn
1 (15.5 oz.) can pinto beans with jalapenos
1 (15.5 oz.) can black beans
1 (15.5 oz.) can red beans
1 (15.5 oz.) can ranch style beans
1 (1.25 oz.) pkg. taco seasoning
1 (1.0 oz.) pkg. dry ranch dressing
Cook ground beef and drain grease.
In 6 qt. slow cooker add all of the above ingredients—do not drain canned tomatoes, corn, or beans. Set cooker on low and simmer for 4 or more hours. Forget it until you are ready to eat. Garnish with corn chips and shredded cheese.
Dawn’s Breakfast “Rattlesnake” Eggs
On a recent stay with their son Geff and his wife Dawn, Joan and Glen were served these crescent-wrapped sausages that kind of resemble rattlesnakes eggs— not an unfamiliar sight in the Flint Hills.
2 lb. Jimmy Dean® bulk sausage - fried and well drained
16 ounces cream cheese
2 (8-count) cans refrigerator crescent rolls
Mix cooked and drained sausage with cream cheese in a skillet and place over medium heat until cheese is melted. Cool slightly.
Open crescent rolls and unroll dough; add meat-cheese mixture to each triangle on the widest end. Roll up and tuck ends under, shaping each into a large, egg-shaped oval.
Spray cookie sheet with oil. Place prepared filled rolls on a cookie sheet and bake at 350° until golden brown.
Maggie’s Mexi-Corn Salad
Margaret Darg served this salad at a meal the Dawsons attended and again at a monthly chicken dinner at Chisholm Golf course.
2 (14.75 oz.) cans whole kernel corn, drained
2 cups grated cheese, such as Cheddar, colby, or Monterey Jack
1 cup mayonnaise + 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar if desired
1 cup chopped red or green pepper, or both
½ cup chopped onion
1 (10 oz.) bag Chili Cheese Frito® corn chips, crushed
Mix first 5 ingredients well and chill for at least 4 hours (add 2 Tbsp. sugar to salad dressing if desired).
Add crushed chips and mix in shortly before serving.
Carmen’s Favorite Bing Cherry Salad 12 to 15 servings
Joan discovered this 3-layer salad recipe in the Trinity Lutheran Women’s Cookbook, 1975 edition; it was submitted by Rida Duckwall. Over the years it became a favorite of the Dawson’s granddaughter, Carmen. “Now, whenever she and her family come to our house for a meal, she requests this salad, Joan explained.
2 (3 oz.) pkgs. black cherry Jell-O® gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1 (23.5 oz.) can chunk pineapple, drained
1 (15 oz.) can Bing cherries, drain but reserve juice
½ cup whipping cream
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecan
Dissolve gelatin in boiling water, add cold water to juice off cherries to make 2 cups.
Put drained pineapple in bottom of large glass dish. Add half of the prepared gelatin mixture and chill until firm.
Add drained cherries to remaining gelatin mixture and chill until partially set.
Combine whipping cream and softened cream cheese. Beat with mixer until completely mixed. Spread over firmed pineapple gelatin layer and chill until firm.
Pour cherry gelatin with bing cherries mixture over cream cheese layer, sprinkle with chopped nuts. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Easy Spicy Pickles
Joan simply “doctors up” purchased pickles to create these tasty treats. Sometimes she uses baby dills, cut into 1” pieces, and then serves them as an hors d’oeuvre.
1 quart dill slices (well drained)
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ oz. (1 Tbsp.) Tabasco® hot sauce
Drain pickles in colander, then put back into the jar. Add sugar on top of pickles and hot sauce. Put lid on jar and wait at least overnight, preferably a couple of days. Turn jar several times before serving.
Joan found the basic recipe on a Southern cooking website (www.southerncooking.com) but then added the ranch salad dressing to kick it up a notch.
2 lbs. baby carrots
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 (l oz.) pkg. dry ranch salad dressing
Cook carrots to crisp tender, drain and set aside.
Combine melted butter, add brown sugar and ranch dressing. Mix well. Add carrots and stir over medium heat about 5 minutes or until carrots are glazed.
Oven Roasted Veggies 6 servings
”I like to prepare this recipe four to six hours before baking, then refrigerate so the veggies can absorb the onion flavor of the dip mix,” Joan commented.
4 large potatoes, cut into 1” chunks
1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 small (4 oz.) pkg. of mini carrots
1 envelope (from the 2 oz. box) of Lipton Recipe Secrets® onion dip mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Put all ingredients into a 1-gallon ziplock bag. Turn several times until all veggies are coated. Place into a 9”x13” glass dish. Bake at 350° for approximately 35 to 40 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender and golden brown.
My Easy Ice Cream Dessert Makes a 9”x13” dessert
When serving her Mexican Stack meal, Joan offers this dessert to round out the menu. The Dawsons like Cherry Nut or Butter Brickle ice cream but she says, “Just use your favorite.”
1 (13 oz.) pkg. vanilla sandwich cookies cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
8 oz. carton Cool Whip® whipped topping, thawed
½ gallon ice cream
Place cookies in gallon plastic bag and crush with rolling pin. Put into mixing bowl and combine with nuts and whipped topping. Press this mixture into a 9”x13” pan. Soften the ice cream just until you can spread it evenly on top of cookie layer. Cover and freeze until ready to serve.
Mom’s Raw Apple Cake Makes one 9”x13” cake . . . or use batter to make muffins
This cake recipe was a favorite of Joan’s mom, Lura Geske. “She loved it because it kept well and was easy to prepare in one big mixing bowl. It’s good served with whipped topping.
Sift dry ingredients into large mixing bowl:
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Blend oil and eggs into dry ingredients until very well mixed. Fold in apples, and nuts if desired
1 cup vegetable oil
4 cups chopped raw apples – peeled 1 cup nuts, optiona
Pour cake into 9”x13” ungreased pan. Or spoon into muffin cups, filling 2/3 full.
Bake 9”x13” pan for 50 minutes in a preheated 350° oven.
Bake muffins for 35 minutes in a preheated 350° oven.
Mini Cherry Cheesecakes Makes 24 to 30
These individual cheesecakes make a festive dessert for cooks who are looking for a simple, uncomplicated recipe.
2 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
24 to 30 mini muffin tin liners
24 to 30 vanilla wafers
1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling (use the “lite” version if you prefer less sugar)
Beat together cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
Add muffin tin liners to mini muffin pans; place one vanilla wafer in bottom of each liner. Add about 2 tablespoons batter on top of each wafer. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for about 15 minutes—they do not brown, but look puffy and yellow.
Let cool. Put one big teaspoon of fruit filling on top of each cheesecake. Refrigerate. Will keep for up to three weeks in refrigerator (if no one knows they are there).
Janet's Quick Apple Dumplings Makes 8 dumplings
After rave reviews at a P.E.O luncheon, held at the Hitching Post in Old Abilene Town, Janet Allen shared this recipe.
2 medium Granny Smith apples
1 (8-count) pkg. refrigerator crescent roll dough
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup finely chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease an 8" square baking dish.
Peel and core apples. Cut each apple into fourths. Unroll and separate crescent roll dough. Wrap each apple section in a crescent roll. Place in pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Combine butter, sugar, and orange juice in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over dumplings. Sprinkle pecans over top.
Bake 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown and beginning to bubble and apples are just tender when pierced with a fork.
To serve, spoon some of the syrup from the baking dish over dumpling and serve with ice cream or whipped topping, if desired.
Praline TV Mix . . . a sweet twist on a classic snack
The Dawson’s buy farm fresh pecans when in Texas and keep them frozen until Joan is ready to use them in this recipe. She notes, “This TV mix makes a nice Christmas gift when added to a decorated jar or tin.”
1 (17 oz.) pkg. Crispix® cereal
4 cups pecans, halves or pieces
1 (5 oz.) pkg. dried cranberries
Syrup to pour over mixture:
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon baking soda
Heat oven to 250°. Combine cereal, nuts, and cranberries in very large bowl; set aside.
Combine corn syrup, brown sugar, and butter in pan and bring to a full boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and soda (mixture will foam). Pour mixture over cereal, nuts, and fruit mixture; stir to coat evenly. Spread in large pan (Joan uses an oven broiler pan). Bake 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Spread on wax paper to cool. Break into pieces. Store in airtight container.